I was recently watching a short video featuring a behind-the-scenes look at how the soundtrack for the Greatest Showman came to be. Since this is one of the greatest movie soundtracks of all time, I was immediately drawn to the story. I'll let you draw your own conclusions from the video, but if you don't tear up (at least a little bit) we might not be able to be friends anymore. :)
I wanted to share this video because it reminded me of a tension I've noticed in education. The tension revolves around when it's okay to be selfish with our time and when we might be expected to be selfless. You might be questioning my word choice here (and I probably am too), but I'm hoping to be able to reflect as I type so the semantics may suffer a little.
There's a faction of us who believe we need to sacrifice for our students. In some ways, this approach involves being selfless or doing whatever it takes to help students succeed. This might mean we work longer hours or prioritize the schedules and needs of others above and beyond our family's needs. Sometimes the people who identify with this approach are even referred to as EduHeroes. (I'm not endorsing the term, but just connecting real conversations occurring on- and off-line to this reflection.)
There's another faction of us who are committed to the concept of self-care. This approach involves being more intentional about meeting our needs because this helps us take better care of our students. Some of the educators who identify with this approach are genuinely concerned about the subtle and unsustainable expectations associated with EduHeroism.
The lines I drew above are oversimplifications, but they reflect some of the key arguments I've heard on this topic. There are elements from both sides that resonate with me. I also think most of us might agree on more things than we disagree on.
Back to the Video...
Based on what I observed in the video, it appeared as if Hugh Jackman practiced self-care by establishing a boundary with his Hollywood colleagues (and they appeared to respect his decision). Based on the gravity of the music practice session, some might say he made a selfish decision to abstain from fully participating. I think part of the tension many of us are noticing is the fact that self-care can be construed as selfish. (I'm curious about your thoughts on this...)
There was another moment in the video when Hugh got so caught up in his passion for the music that he did something incredibly inspiring. You could probably make a case that he was being selfless or a HollyHero (I couldn't resist) by potentially sacrificing his own health and ignoring his doctor's orders to refrain from singing.
Here's the thing...
I'm reflecting on our work in education again. Obviously, there's immense value in being mindful about our long-term health and how we prioritize our work. At the same time, there's value in having the freedom to follow our passions even if it means we practice momentary acts of self-sacrifice in the process.
There are so many important points coming from people on both sides of this discussion. Actually, I'm not even sure there are sides to this, but here are a few questions that help flush out the push-pull nature of this.
1. What are the things you do as an educator that fill your bucket? (How do you make time to do them?)
2. How do you know when you've overextended yourself or sacrificed too much? (What do you do to course-correct?)
3. Is it possible to go above and beyond as an educator and still be a great parent, aunt, uncle, etc.? (What does this look like in both arenas?)
If this blog post resonated, you might like my newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. The book tackles a tension many educators are feeling using a combination of stories and practical strategies. If you’re interested in technology integration, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students is a best-seller with Corwin Press. Both books are built on the belief that everything we do in education starts with relationships and connectedness.